Facebook’s Racism Problem Isn’t Going Away Anytime Soon

On the world’s largest social media platform, users routinely find adhering to Facebook’s seemingly trivial community standards burdensome. Far-right extremism, however, rarely seemed to violate those standards. Thanks to pressure from several civil rights groups, scholars, and civil society, that may be about to change.

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“Our policies have long prohibited hateful treatment of people based on characteristics such as race, ethnicity or religion — and that has always included white supremacy. We didn’t originally apply the same rationale to expressions of white nationalism and white separatism because we were thinking about broader concepts of nationalism and separatism … over the past three months our conversations with members of civil society and academics who are experts in race relations around the world have confirmed that white nationalism and white separatism cannot be meaningfully separated from white supremacy and organized hate groups.”

Hate groups (and racists) have always gotten a pass on Facebook. If you’ve ever reported a person, page, or group for spreading hate or targeting you, you’re probably familiar with the following statement: “We looked over the page/post/image you reported, and though it doesn’t go against one of our specific community standards, we understand that the page/post/image shared may still be offensive to you and others.”

“We also need to get better and faster at finding and removing hate from our platforms. Over the past few years we have improved our ability to use machine learning and artificial intelligence to find material from terrorist groups. Last fall, we started using similar tools to extend our efforts to a range of hate groups globally, including white supremacists.”

While most hate groups and racists have their own spaces on the internet (4Chan, 8Chan, Gab, etc), they can’t spread their hate on those sites. Those spaces act more like echo-chambers and the only people they reach are those that already share their beliefs. The idea behind spreading their messages of hate is to recruit others and grow their numbers.

Facebook’s Private Social Network

Moving forward, one has to wonder how the Standing Against Hate announcement fits in with Mark Zuckerberg’s statement earlier this month outlining a “Privacy Focused Vision for Social Networking” where he mentions “Private Interactions” among users. Such a move would seemingly cut down on the amount of hate speech we see on the platform in itself while allowing for hate group recruitment to continue.

“People should have simple, intimate places where they have clear control over who can communicate with them and confidence that no one else can access what they share.” — Mark Zuckerberg

Zuckerberg goes on to discuss encryption and reducing the permanence of content. Encryption is important. Particularly for journalists, activists, and dissidents at home and abroad. The ability to use encryption saves lives. But it’s also used by terrorists and hate groups to communicate secretly and away from big brother’s prying eyes. This isn’t an argument against encryption, quite the contrary. Instead, it questions its use in this particular application.

“People’s private communications should be secure. End-to-end encryption prevents anyone — including us — from seeing what people share on our services.” — Mark Zuckerberg

Trust in Facebook’s capability to keep user’s data private is arguably at an all-time low and these new privacy features are expected to be welcomed by most users. Privacy, encryption, reducing the permanence of what you post, should be embraced. They benefit all of us. Once again, in this context, its use is suspect.

“People should be comfortable being themselves, and should not have to worry about what they share coming back to hurt them later. So we won’t keep messages or stories around for longer than necessary to deliver the service or longer than people want them.” — Mark Zuckerberg

While we celebrate Facebook’s Standing Against Hate press release, hate groups are likely celebrating a more private, yet equally accessible social media platform. As most media outlets bite into the latest announcement for clicks, we can’t overlook the gifts being handed to the same hateful people that thrive on the network today.

“In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.” — Angela Davis

There is no shortage of hate groups in America and they continued to grow exponentially using Facebook. From white genocide to white identity politics; hate groups are pushing an agenda that is meant to strike fear while creating an atmosphere of hate towards people that don’t look, act, or speak the way they do. As hate crimes increase, so does the membership of hate groups and militias. Facebook doesn’t want to address these issues. Mark Zuckerberg just wants to maintain the inflow of advertising dollars and keep shareholders happy.

“When we hear any professional ‘Latino’ support this or that social program, we sense in our guts that her policy proscriptions are rationalizations for nationalism. She might say ‘more immigration is good’; she means ‘The Anglos are finished!’” — Richard Spencer

No anti-racist should ever back down from having discussions with racists or just calling them out when necessary. Whether they’re hiding behind Facebook Pages, sock puppet accounts, or private (hidden) groups, the onus will always be on us to address the issue directly and without assistance from supposedly socially-conscious corporations. While hate speech continues unabated, it shouldn’t surprise anyone when we find out that the people we see verbally and physically assault people of color in public are hiding within these groups.

Written by

Anti-racist activist, essayist, and upcoming author; advocating for equality, justice, and accountability. Support my work at patreon.com/ExtremeArturo

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